« EdellinenJatka »
o that the word of God was nigh, in the heart," and in God's name commanded the children of Israel to obey and do it. In short, he refused the counsel of God, and God for his counsellor : for, in the next place, he becakes himself «s to one that had a familiar is spirit for advice,” saith the story : “ He enquired so not of the Lord; therefore he slew him, and turned " the kingdom unto David.” There are too many people troubled with familiar spirits ; it were well if they were less familiar with them : had Saul trusted in God, he needed not to have been driven to that strait. He that was made king by God's appointment, and endued with a good spirit, so basely to degenerate, as to run to a witch for counsel, could not but miscarry. To this darkness and extremity iniquity will bring men : and truly, a wo follows all such persons; answerable to that expression of God by the prophet ; s « Wo « unto them that take counsel, and not of me.” « When Saul,” saith the place, “ was little in his own “ eyes, God honoured him; he made him head and o king of the tribes of Israel :" but when Saul grew proud, God deserted him, and for his disobedience deAtroyed him. And what befel the family of Saul, in fome after-ages befel both kings and people, and worse : for their land was invaded, first by the Ægyptians, then by the Chaldeans and Babylonians: their temple was rifed, their treasure taken, and their kings, princes, nobles, artificers, and mighty men of valour, yea all save the poorest of the people, were killed, or carried away captive, by the king of Babylon. The reason rendered is this : « Because the kings did that « which was evil in the sight of God, and stiffened " their necks, and hardened their hearts from turning « unto the Lord God of Israel ;” and because the chief of the priests and of the people transgressed very much after the abominations of the heathen. And when God sent his messengers to reprove and warn them, and that out of his great compassion, they
! Sam, xv. 17.
.2 Kings xxiv, 14. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 14. .
wickedly mocked his messengers, despised his words, and misused his prophets, till his wrath came upon them, and overthrew them.
I will here end my instances out of sacred story: and let us now briefily consider what the histories of other places will tell us, that we may observe some proportion of agreement in the providence of God throughout the world.
The first empire had Nimrod's strength, and the wisdom of the Chaldeans, to establish it; and whilst their prudence and fobriety lasted, they prospered. No sooner came voluptuousness, than the empire decayed; and was at last, by the base effeminacies of Sardanapalus, in whom that race ended, transferred to another family. It was the policy of an Assyrian king, in order to subdue the strength of Babylon, then under good discipline, not to invade it with force, but to debauch it. Wherefore he sent in players, musicians, cooks, harlots, &c. and by those means introducing corruption of manners, there was little more to do, than to take it. Nebuchadnezzar, by his virtue and industry, seen in the siege of Tyre, and in many enterprizes, recovered and enlarged the empire; and it seems his discipline (those times considered) was so excellent, that it was praised in scripture. But when he grew proud and foolish, forgetting that providence that had shewn itself so kind to him, he became a beast, and grazed among beasts; till God, whom he had forgotten, had restored him the heart of a man and his throne together.
He, dying, left Evil-Merodach heir to his crown, not his conduct, nor the heart to consider what God had done by him: in his time pride and luxury increased, but came not to its full pitch, till the reign of Belshazzar, who did not only, as Nebuchadnezzar, live, but die a beast. In him we have the exact example of a diffolute and miserable prince: he thought to fence himself against heaven and earth : diffolved in pleasures, he worshipped no other God: his story may make us well conclude, that God and man desert those
that desert themselves, and neglect the means of their own preservation. The city was taken before he knew it, and the sword almost in his bowels, before he believed it; his sensuality had wrapt him in such a despe. rate security. But he fell not by the hand of one like himself; for God, who had determined the end, prepared the means. Cyrus and his Persians were the men : the people were poor, inhabiting a barren country ; but hardy, and of fober manners. Cyrus God had endued with excellent natural qualities, cultivated (as story tells us) by the care of four of the most temperate, just, and wise persons of those times. This was he, whom God honoured with the name of his « shepherd,” and who was the executioner of his vengeance upon the Affyrians. While he reigned, all was well ; but after he and his virtuous companions deceased, their children fell into the vices of the Affyrians; and though they reigned from the Indus to the Hellefpont, they soon became the conquest of the Greeks.
Never was there a greater instance given of the weakness of pomp and luxury, than in the resistance made at Thermopolæ, where three hundred virtuous Spartans encountered the vast army of Xerxes, consisting of no less than seventeen hundred thousand men. In short, the defeats of Salamine and Platea, the expeditions of Xenophon with Cyrus the younger, almost into Babylon, and the wars of Agesilaus into Asia, made it evident, that Greece wanted only union, and an head, to make herself mistress of that vast empire.
At last comes Alexander of Macedon, with the best disciplined people that was then known : the dispute was short, where steel was against gold, fobriety against luxury, and men against men that were turned women. Thus the Persians, prepared by their own vices, God delivered into the hands of the Greeks, who as much excelled them in their virtue, as they were short of their dominion and wealth. But this lasted not long; for Alexander, who died young, survived his virtue and reputation, by falling into those vices of the
nations nations God had given him power to trample under foot; insomuch that he, who was before generous, became barbarous and tyrannical. Egypt, Asia, and Macedon, held up their heads a while ; but not refifting the torrent of lewdness that came upon them, they suffered themselves to be overwhelmed with misery and confusion.
Nor has this calamity been peculiar to monarchies; for several republicks have fallen by the same mischief. That of Lacedæmon, or Sparta, so severe in her conftitution, and so remarkable for the virtue of her people, and that for many ages, at last growing nack in the execution of her laws, and suffering corruption insensibly to creep into her manners, she became no more considerable, but weak and contemptible.
The same may be said of Athens, the great school of learning; and of all the republicks of Greece, most famous for her virtue and philosophy, when that word was understood not of vain disputing, but of pious living : fhe no sooner fell into luxury, but confusion and revoJutions made her as inconsiderable, as she had been great.
Rome, as she was the greatest commonwealth, so the greatest example of the Gentiles in virtue and vice, in happiness and in misery : her virtue and greatness are commemorated by Austin the father, and the latter made the effect of the former. God,' saith he, 'gave (the Romans the government of the world, as a re
ward for their virtue. Their manners were so good, and their policy so plain and just, that nothing could stand before them. And truly, they seemed to have been employed by God to punish the impious, and to instruct the barbarous nations : and so very jealous was The of the education of her youth, that she would not suffer them to converse with the luxurious Greeks. But carelessness, with length of time, overcoming the remarkable sobriety of her manners, who before seemed invincible, she falls into equal, if not greater mi. series, than those that went before her; though the had not only warning enough from their example, but
from Hannibal's army, and her great enemy : for one winter's quarter of Hannibal and his army in the luxurious city of Capua, proved a greater overthrow to them, than all the Roman consuls and armies had given them. They that had been victors in so many battles, turned flaves at last to dancers, buffoons, cooks, and harlots; so as from that time they never
their former actions; but fell without much difficulty into the Roman hands. Nay, not long before, Rome herself encountered one of the greatest dangers that ever had befallen her, by the corruption of her own people, in the same place, by the like means : and though this defection was recovered by those that remained entire in their manners, yet after the overthrow
and vices of Asia came with a full stream upon them, the very heart of the city became infected; and the lewd Asiaticks had this revenge in their own fall, that they ruined, by their vices, those they were no ways able to resist by their force; like the story of the dying centaur. Thus pride, avarice, and luxury, hav. ing prepared Rome for destruction, it soon followed. Virtue now grew intolerable in Rome, where vice dared not for ages to shew its face. The worthiest men were cut off, by proscriptions, battles or murders, as if she resolved ipfam virtutem exfcindere : The destroyed her own citizens, and sent for strangers to protect her, which ruined her. Which proves, that the kingdom or state, that, under God, doth not sub. sist by its own strength, prudence and virtue, cannot stand: for the Goths, Hunns, and others, despised to serve those, whom they excelled in power and virtue ; and instead of guarding, took their dominion from them. And truly it might rather be called a journey, than a military expedition, to go and pillage Rome; so weak had her vices made her. Thus she, that was feared by all nations, became the prey of all nations about her. So ended that once 'potent and virtuous commonwealth.